The 1968 NASCAR Grand National season would pit the sleek Ford Torino and Mercury Cyclone models against the brute horsepower of Chrysler's Hemi. General Motors was still on the sidelines, staying out of racing because it feared violating federal safety standards.
The Fords and Caleb Yarborough's lone Mercury were the top dogs on the superspeedways, while Richard Petty's Ford racked up wins on the short tracks. Ford scored in nine of the 12 major races on big tracks. The excitement of the season gave NASCAR a needed boost in popularity among fans as well. You can learn all about the 1968 NASCAR season, including highlights, photos, and standings, in this article.
November 12, 1968
Bobby Allison wins the 1968 NASCAR Grand National season opener at Middle Georgia Raceway in Macon. An elaborate moonshine operation is discovered beneath the track. Peach County Sheriff Reggie Mullis calls it, "one of the most well-built moonshine stills ever operated."
Bobby Isaac's #37 Dodge skids off the course during the Jan. 21 Motor Trend 500 at Riverside International Raceway as Dan Gurney passes in the #21 Wood Brothers Ford. Isaac recovered to finish seventh. Gurney went on to win, his fifth win in his last six Grand National starts at the track. It was the first NASCAR Grand National event that included protective screens in the driver's window. The window screens represented weren't mandated by NASCAR until 1970. See more pictures of NASCAR.
February 25, 1968: Daytona 500
Cale Yarborough wins the Daytona 500 by less than a second over LeeRoy Yarbrough. Gordon Johncock's Smokey Yunick-prepared Chevrolet is not permitted to compete when NASCAR officials find a number of rules violations during inspection.
April 21, 1968: Gwyn Staley Memorial
David Pearson takes the lead in the final 10 laps and wins the Gwyn Staley Memorial at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Seventeen cars are eliminated by engine failures.
Number 29 Bobby Allison, #12 Earl Balmer, #16 Tiny Lund, #3 Buddy Baker, and #17 David Pearson pitch their cars into the first turn at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the May 26 World 600. Baker won in the Ray Fox Dodge when rain halted the event after 255 of the 400 laps had been completed.
May 11, 1968: Rebel 400
David Pearson scores his first superspeedway victory since 1961 in the Rebel 400 at Darlington Raceway. Pearson's Holman-Moody Ford is powered by a small 396-cid engine, which allows him to run 293 pounds lighter than most of his rivals under the new power-to-weight ratio rules.
June 8, 1968
Richard Petty dominates the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National race at Birmingham Speedway. David Pearson finishes third but is disqualified for using improper tires.
Young Pete Hamilton, the son of a college professor, stands beside the #5 Ford owned by Rocky Hinton before the start of the May 5 Fireball 300. Hamilton drove Hinton's unsponsored car in 10 races in 1968, scoring a runner-upfinish at Maryville, Tenn., in his fourth career start. Late in the season, he moved to a Dodge owned by A.J. King. Hamilton won the 1968 Rookie of the Year award in a close decision over Richard Brickhouse.
June 16, 1968: Carolina 500
Donnie Allison scores his first career NASCAR Grand National victory in Rockingham's Carolina 500. Rookie Richard Brickhouse, driving in his first Grand National event, finishes fourth.
August 4, 1968: Dixie 500
LeeRoy Yarbrough snaps a slump by winning the Dixie 500 at Atlanta International Raceway. Bobby Isaac finishes second and takes a one-point lead over David Pearson in the championship race.
Bud Moore's Dodge lurches sideways in the first turn during the early laps of the Feb. 25 Daytona 500. USAC Stock Car champion Butch Hartman, making his second NASCAR Grand National start, takes his #5 Dodge to the low side to avoid Moore. James Hylton squeezes past in the high groove. Hartman went on to finish 16th. The Twin 125s scheduled for Feb. 23 were rained out, so the starting positions were determined solely by qualifying times.
August 18, 1968: Western North Carolina 500
David Pearson wins his third consecutive race in the Western North Carolina 500 at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway. Pearson is the 11th driver to win in the 11 runnings of the event.
September 2, 1968: Southern 500
Cale Yarborough nips David Pearson by four car lengths and wins the Southern 500 at Darlington. It is Yarborough's record fourth superspeedway win of the season.
September 15, 1968
Richard Petty finishes seven laps ahead of the field in the 150-miler at Orange Speedway in Hillsborough, N.C. It is the last NASCAR Grand National race staged at the venerable 0.9-mile dirt oval.
Cale Yarborough swept both races at Daytona International Speedway in 1968, winning the Daytona 500 in the final laps and romping to an easy win in the Firecracker 400. While the Wood Brothers Mercury team had full Ford factory backing, 60 Minute Cleaners provided additional sponsorship for three years.
October 20, 1968: National 500
Sophomore Charlie Glotzbach records his first career win in the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Glotzbach edges Paul Goldsmith to give Dodge only its second superspeedway win of the season.
November 3, 1968
Cale Yarborough wins the season finale at Jefferson, Ga., as David Pearson is declared the NASCAR Grand National champion. Pearson finishes 126 points ahead of Bobby Isaac to secure his second title.
November 25, 1968
Richard Petty announces he will leave Plymouth to drive Fords in the 1969 season. All of Petty's 92 wins have come in Plymouths.
To learn the standings for the 1968 NASCAR Grand National tour, see the next section.
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1968 NASCAR Grand National StandingsDavid Pearson and Bobby Isaac engaged in a ferocious duel for the 1968 NASCAR championship before Pearson pulled away in the closing months. It was Pearson's second NASCAR Grand National title.
1968 NASCAR Grand National Champion David Pearson
Pearson won 16 races en route to the championship while Isaac won three times. Pearson took the lead from Isaac in the points race after a victory in the Aug. 8 event at Columbia, S.C. The driver of the Holman-Moody Ford survived two disqualifications, but still won the title by 126 points.
NASCAR instituted a new points system for 1968, with 150 points available to the winner in races of 400 miles or more, 100 points for major short-track events, and 50 points for small short-track races.
Richard Petty, who tied Pearson with the most wins at 16, finished a distant third in the standings. Clyde Lynn, who only posted a pair of top-five finishes, came home fourth. John Sears, with five top-five finishes, rounded out the season's top five. To see the rest of the season's statistics, see the chart below.
1968 NASCAR Grand National Standings
||Paul Dean Holt
||Paul "Bud" Moore||1,086||0
||Dr. Don Tarr
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